Public Housing Breaks the Mold

September/October 2001
A version of this article appears in the September/October 2001 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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September 01, 2001
Multifamily public and low-income housing have particular problems when it comes to moisture and air pollutants. In this first of a two-part series, we look at one particular type of multifamily construction: midrise housing.
        Sick buildings are a growing concern in all sectors of the building industry. As homes become tighter and more energy efficient, other performance factors, particularly moisture and ventilation problems, often become apparent. Each day, building scientists and public health researchers learn more about the link between poor home performance and poor occupant health. These health problems cannot be taken lightly; for example, Cleveland’s public housing stock is the epicenter of recent mold-related deaths among children.         In our work in the fields of energy efficiency and forensic architecture,we have investigated building problems in more than 200 subsidized housing developments. Based on our experiences with this housing stock,we find that moisture problems are the major cause of suspected healthrelated building problems in subsidized housing, and that adding controlled mechanical ventilation is one of the easiest and least expensive means of reducing or resolving many of these problems.         In many of the homes we’ve seen, specifically midrise and Veterans Era (post-World War II) housing, high surface humidity due to a lack of ventilation coupled with thermal bridging is a large ...

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